TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs benefit thousands in 2021

The TOY for Inclusion consortium has released the project’s Monitoring and Evaluation report. This report evaluates the impact of TOY for Inclusion’s Play Hubs from February to December 2021 and highlights the successes of this innovative approach and challenges that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monitoring and Evaluation Report highlights successes in 2021 

Despite the continuing presence of COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, the Play Hubs demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability in striving to increase social contact for children and their families. Except for the Slovenian Play Hubs, which were closed due to restrictions, all Play Hubs continued operating and providing services to their local communities. In addition, four new Play Hubs opened — two in Croatia and two in Slovakia.

Over the year, the 17 active Play Hubs organized 390 activities. The Play Hubs saw a significant increase in the number of in-person activities compared with the previous monitoring period between March 2020 and January 2021. Almost 70% of these took place face-to-face. Other methods used to connect with children and families include social media networks and telephone services.

TOY for Inclusion continues to bring communities together

Between February and December of 2021, 4,536 people participated in activities organized by the Play Hubs. The majority of these individuals were children, but this total also includes adults and practitioners. Of the participants, 57% were from vulnerable groups (namely Roma, but there were also migrants and refugees). 

Interestingly, the data gathered by TOY for Inclusion partner organizations shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Play Hubs also provided vital services and social interaction for older children and teenagers. The range of age groups engaged in such services is a testament to the adaptability and flexibility of the Toy for Inclusion approach.

Challenges in a pandemic environment 

The main challenges experienced by TOY for Inclusion and the Play Hubs in 2021 were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, COVID-19 restrictions inhibited the activities of Play Hubs across Europe, while in Slovenia, the restrictions meant that for the entire reported period, the Play Hubs were not able to operate at all. Across the board, partners reported that isolation and loneliness had a negative impact on children and families.

For some Roma families, vaccine hesitancy and thus the lack of a vaccine certificate meant that they could not access services, including the Play Hubs. In Latvia, vaccine hesitancy also resulted in a critical loss of Roma Play Hub assistants who chose not to get vaccinated. Four other countries also reported a shortage of staff as their primary challenge. Work will be ongoing to encourage vaccinations in several Play Hub communities and train new staff to fill vacated positions.

Overall, the report shows how, TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs continue to make services easier to reach by promoting inter-sectoral work, flexible solutions, and contextualized responses to young children and their families’ specific needs. Even amid difficult COVID-19 lockdowns, the Play Hubs provided a safe, stimulating environment for children and families. Read the complete Monitoring and Evaluation report.

For specific questions regarding the TOY for Inclusion project, please access the links below.

  • Hear the perspectives of those involved in the project (children, Local Action Teams, municipalities, here.